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Monday, July 04, 2005

Read Ireland

Read Ireland Book News - Issue 311 ---------------------------------- Field Day Review 2005 edited by Seamus Deane and Breandan Mac Suibhne (Large Format Paperback; 35.00 Euro / 42.50 USD / 28.00 UK; 300 pages) This first issue of Field Day Review appears twenty-five years after the establishment of the Field Day Theatre Company by Brian Friel and Stephen Rea. Field Day has toured fourteen plays including world premières of celebrated works by Friel, Terry Eagleton, Thomas Kilroy, Derek Mahon, Stewart Parker and Tom Paulin. Field Day has also held many readings and lectures and has published some forty books including the fifteen Field Day Pamphlets (1983–88), Seamus Heaney’s Sweeney Astray, the five-volume Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, and Critical Conditions (1995–2005), a series of sixteen books of essays by literary critics, historians and geographers. ------------------------------- Towards Ireland Free: The West Cork Brigade in the War of Independence 1917-21 by Liam Deasy (Trade Paperback; 20.00 Euro / 26.00 USD / 14.00 UK; 366 pages) In the War of Independence, military leaders such as Michael Collins, Liam Lynch and Liam Deasy secured Irish independence from a country that had seemingly limitless resources of men, money and arms. The British, however, lacked the one thing which the Irish possessed in abundance: a burning conviction in the justice of their cause. First published in 1973, this book is the story of one of those leaders. Liam Deasy was just 20 at the time of the 1916 Easter Rising. He enrolled in the Volunteers in Bandon in 1917 and by 1921 was in command of the West Cork Brigade. In this account, he vividly recreates the tense and hope-filled atmosphere of those years and provides a rich gallery of portraits of those in the company of whom he fought. He also recounts, in great detail, famous episodes such as the successful attack on the British Naval Sloop in Bantry, Howes Strand and Ballycrovane Coastguard Stations, the ambushes at Kilmichael and Cross barry and the raid on Fastnet Rock. -------------------------------- The Sea by John Banville (Hardback; 20.00 Euro / 26.00 USD / 14.00 UK; 264 pages) The brilliant new novel by the Booker-shortlisted author of Shroud and The Book of Evidence, John Banville is, quite simply, one of the greatest novelists writing in the English language today. When Max Morden returns to the coastal town where he spent a holiday in his youth he is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma. The Grace family appear that long ago summer as if from another world. Drawn to the Grace twins, Chloe and Myles, Max soon finds himself entangled in their lives, which are as seductive as they are unsettling. What ensues will haunt him for the rest of his years and shape everything that is to follow. John Banville is one of the most sublime writers working in the English language. Utterly compelling, profoundly moving and illuminating, The Sea is quite possibly the best thing he has ever written. ----------------------------------- Sheela-Na-Gigs: Unravelling an Enigma by Barbara Freitag (Paperback; 35.00 Euro / 45.00 USD / 25.00 UK; 210 pages) An air of mystery has surrounded the crude carvings of naked females, called Sheela-na-gigs, since their scholarly discovery some one hundred and sixty years ago. Especially puzzling is the fact that they occur predominantly in medieval religious buildings. High-minded clergymen have since defaced or destroyed many of these carvings, and for a long time archaeologists dismissed them as rude and repulsive. Only in the less puritanical atmosphere of the last few decades have academics and artists turned their interest to Sheela-na-gigs. Divergent views emerged: some see them as ancient goddesses, some as vestiges of a pagan cult, others as protective talismans or Christian warnings against lust. Here Barbara Freitag examines all the literature on the subject, highlighting the inconsistencies of the various interpretations in regard to origin, function and name. By considering the Sheela-na-gigs in their medieval social context, she suggests that they were folk deities with particular responsibility for assistance in childbirth. This fascinating survey sheds new light on this controversial phenomenon, and also contains a complete catalogue of all known Sheela-na-gigs, including hitherto unrecorded or unpublished figures. -------------------------------- Early Celtic Art in Britain and Ireland by Ruth and Vincent Megaw (Paperback; 10.00 Euro / 13.00 USD / 7.00 UK; 80 pages) This widely praised introduction, now extensively revised and enlarged, examines the predominantly warrior and aristocraftic art of the Iron Age inhabitants of Britain and Ireland from the fourth century BC until the Roman conquest. Since these communities, conventionally referred to as Celts, were peoples with an oral tradition, medieval Irish and Welsh texts embodying these traditions are a very uncertain guide to the life and culture of peoples of upwards of a millennium earlier. Celtic art is thus one of the rare, if obscured, windows into the minds and souls of early Celts. Much of the surviving art decorates metalwork, usually weapons or items of personal adornment; there is little or no securely dated sculpture, whether in stone or wood. This is an art style whose imagery is elusive, non-representational and non-narrative, and thus difficult to analyse. This book looks at Celtic art made by communities who lived in Britain and Ireland a thousand years and more before the creation of the Book of Kells or the Ardagh Chalice, the art which is more popularly known as 'Celtic'. ---------------------------------- Prehistoric Stone Circles by Aubrey Burl (Paperback; 10.00 Euro / 13.00 USD / 7.00 UK; 80 pages) Stone circles have excited the imagination of their visitors ever since the time of John Aubrey, the seventeenth century antiquarian who was the first person to study them seriously. For three hundred years archaeologists, astronomers and anthropologists have aruged about the purpose of these abandoned rings. Modern excavations have showsn that the earliest circles were erected over five thousand tyears ago and that often sightlines were built into them towards the sun or moon. This book describes these rings, including Stonehenge, explains their history and the facts known about them, and shows how we are gradually coming to an understanding of the significance these gaunt, grey circles had to their builders. ------------------------------- Prehistoric Astronomy and Ritual by Aubrey Burl (Paperback; 10.00 Euro / 13.00 USD / 7.00 UK; 80 pages) Stonehenge was not an observatory used by druidical astronomer-priests. It was, instead, a monument in which the moon and the sun and the dead were joined together. In this book the author, a well-known archaeologist, explains how people in the British Isles, four thousand or more years ago, identified life and death with the cycle of midwinter and midsummer and with the risings and settings of the sun and moon. The book describes how astronomical customs developed in the British Isles. Unlike other works about ‘megalithic astronomy’, technical explanations about azimuths and declinations are kept to their simplest. The emphasis here is upon people rather than perturbations and eclipses. ------------------------------------ Searching for Home by Mary Stanley (Paperback; 10.00 Euro / 13.00 USD / 7.00 UK; 374 pages) Losing their parents in a freak war-time plane crash, Amelia and her fiercely angry, bereaved older sister are rescued by their aunt Lucy, and their grandparents, a wonderfully eccentric British couple from colonial India, who are also scarred by the war. Moving from 1940s Ireland, through post-war England, Malta and London in the 1960s and 1970s, Mary Stanley’s new novel is a beautifully observant tale about survival, self-discovery and falling in love. ------------------------------------ The Arrival of Fergal Flynn by Brian Kennedy (Paperback; 11.00 Euro / 14.00 USD / 8.00 UK; 306 pages) For sixteen-year-old Fergal Flynn, growing up in 1980s Belfast isn’t easy. His father and brothers despise him; he’s his mother’s crutch one day, her punching bag the next; he has no idea what he wants to do with his life; and he fancies one of the boys in his class… Fergal just wants to belong – but knows he never will. When handsome young Father Mac arrives in the parish, Fergal embarks on a whirlwind journey towards a new life. As their relationship deepens, he discovers his sexuality, his talent for singing and the wonderful, terrifying opportunities the world has to offer. Funny, tender and unflinching, The Arrival of Fergal Flynn is the story of a young man struggling to find his voice against all the odds. -------------------------------- Xenophobe’s Guide to the Irish by Frank McNally (Paperback; 5.00 Euro / 7.00 USD / 4.00 UK; 64 pages) An extract from the book : The couth truth: A popular perception of the Irish is that they're all fiery, freckle-faced red-heads who'll start a fight at the slightest offence (e.g., being called 'British'). The bit about the freckles is accurate enough, but the typical Irish person has brown hair and blue eyes. And while they may be descended from the Celts, a fearless people whose warriors were known to run naked into battle, most modern-day Irish people would think twice before running naked into the bathroom. ------------------------------ Highlights from Issue 310 -------------------------- Myths and Legends of the Celts by James MacKillop (Hardback; 40 Euro / 5000 USD / 25.00 UK; 386 pages) This book is a fascinating and wide-ranging introduction to the mythology of the peoples who inhabited the northwestern fringes of Europe. Drawing on recent historical and archaeological research, as well as literary and oral sources, the guide looks at the gods and goddesses of Celtic myth; at the nature of Celtic religion, with its rituals of sun and moon worship; and at the druids who served society as judges, diviners and philosophers. It also examines the many Celtic deities who were linked with animals and such natural phenomena as rivers and caves, or who later became associated with local Christian saints. And it explores in detail the rich variety of Celtic myths. This books covers the wonderfully diverse and fertile tradition of myth-making that has captured the imagination of countless generations, introduced and explained here with compelling insight. ---------------------------------- Irish Sagas and Folk Tales by Eileen O’Faolain (Paperback; 10.00 Euro / 13.00 USD / 7.00 UK; 246 page) Here is a classic collection of tales from the folklore of Ireland. It begins with the heroic sagas, the ancestral tales of men and gods – The Children of Lir, The Fate of the Sons of Usnach, and the magnificent Cattle-Raid of Cooley (the story of the Táin). Then come the noble tales of Finn and the Fianna, Oisin in the Land of the Ever Young, and the Pursuit of Dermot and Grania. Finally there are the chimney-corner tales of the Little People – The Black Thief, The Bird of the Golden Land, and many others. Throughout the book, Eileen O’Faoláin maintains a fine command of beautiful, flowing language and captures the heart of Irish storytelling at its enchanting best. ------------------------------ Carson: The Man Who Divided Ireland by Geoffrey Lewis (Hardback; 30.00 Euro / 36.00 USD / 20.00 UK; 280 pages, with two 8-page black-and-white photo inserts) The partition of Ireland in 1921, and the birth of Northern Ireland as a political entity, was the work of one man above all others. Edward Carson, born in Dublin in 1854, was a brilliant lawyer whose cross-questioning of Oscar Wilde at his libel trial brought about Wilde's downfall. An inspiring orator and political heavyweight at Westminster, his defence of Unionism in the years before the First World War, and of the rights of Ulster not to be swamped in an independent Ireland, made a united Ireland a political impossibility. While some of his actions were denounced in England as close to treason, Carson's idealism and religious tolerance were untypical of the sectarian bigotry that marred the later history of Northern Ireland. Carson: Father of Northern Ireland is the first modern biography of a major figure in both British and Irish politics. ------------------------------- A Special Kind of Courage: 321 EOD Squadron-Battling the Bombers by Chris Ryan (Hardback; 25.00 Euro / 30.00 USD / 19.00 UK; 328 pages, with photo insert) Filled with extraordinary heroism and drama, this is the official story of the British Army's most decorated unit - its Northern Ireland bomb disposal squadron. 321 EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Squadron was posted to Northern Ireland at the outset of the Troubles to provide bomb disposal expertise. Since then it has answered over 50,000 'bomb scare' calls, over 5,500 of them to deal with actual devices. It is impossible to estimate the number of lives, or value of property, saved by its work. But the cost is clear. Conspicuous courage is an essential qualification and 321 EOD is the most decorated unit in the entire British Army. Its members have been awarded 2 George Crosses, 29 George Medals and 281 other medals for outstanding gallantry. 20 officers have lost their lives; 24 have been severely injured. One still serves despite the loss of a hand. It is grimly appropriate that the unit has as its mascot and radio call-sign the cartoon cat, Felix, with his nine lives and ability to withstand mayhem. As peace emerges in Northern Ireland, 321 EOD is now ready to tell its story for the first time. Written with its full co-operation, A Special Kind of Courage traces the history and development of bomb disposal and the use of explosives by terrorists; the human courage and techniques used to counter it; and the international dimension - how violent revolutionary groups abroad, such as ETA in Spain, copied the methods of Irish terrorists. It describes how 321 EOD's pioneering devices - notably the remote-controlled 'wheelbarrow' - have been exported around the world, earning it a global expertise that is sought by many other nations facing the threat of terrorism. ---------------------------------- Irish Benedictines: A History edited by Martin Browne and Colman O Clabagh (Hardback; 30.00 Euro / 37.00 USD / 22.00 UK; 240 pages) In the story of Irish monasticism one chapter has been curiously neglected: the Irish Benedictine tradition has never attracted the historian's attention. This volume seeks to redress this by providing for the first time a comprehensive survey of the ways in which Irish men and women have sought, and continue to seek, God by following the Rule of St Benedict. In a scholarly but accessible fashion, these essays celebrate and explore the stories of these Irish Benedictines over a period of 1400 years. Their following 'the path of the Lord's commands' brought them across Dark Age Europe, through Reformation England and war-torn Europe and into modern Africa. In exile and persecution they established centres of learning and refuge; returning to Ireland they continue to devote themselves to these activities, seeking to glorify God in all things. ------------------------------------- Thank you very much for your continued support, which is vital for the continuation of this service! I respectfully request that if you are considering ordering any of these books that you do so through Read Ireland. I very much appreciate your custom. To order books from the Read Ireland Book Review - simply return the Newsletter by clicking your reply button. Please delete the books you do not want and leaving the books you want to order. Alternatively, you can send an email to the order department at: Please be sure to include your mailing address and credit card details. You can of course also post your order to: Read Ireland, 392 Clontarf Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3,Ireland. Telephone and Facsimile number is: +353-1-853-2063. Read Ireland Web Site Home Page: or We have added a new feature to the Read Ireland website. It is a page listing ONLY the newest books added to or updated on the website. This new feature page will itself be superseded at least 3 times per month. It is the perfect way to keep abreast of what is happening in the world of Irish Interest publishing. Please visit often! If we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you very much for your continued support and custom. Sincerely, Gregory Carr @ Read Ireland
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